His responses are brief. His eyes wander, making little contact with the reporters, bloggers and collected media who pepper him with questions about his struggles. You can tell Thomas Robinson isn’t very happy with himself today following a 96-89 defeat to the Toronto Raptors in NBA Summer League.
The Sacramento Kings rookie big man takes the game of basketball seriously. It’s his craft. It’s his livelihood. And it’s his ticket to providing a better way of living for both him and his younger sister, Jayla, after tragedy unfairly struck their family.
His commitment to succeed reminded me of a moment from my Summer League experience in July. It was my first day in Las Vegas, Monday the 16th, and following a tornado of unexpected trades and transactions, I finally had time to unwind.
I made plans to meet with a fellow friend from the media that evening, who was staying at The Palms. With a car at my disposal, I drove to pick him up after settling into my hotel on the strip. When I arrived, I wasn’t the only one making an entrance.
“Hey, looks like T-Rob is just getting back,” said my friend as he hopped into the car.
He pointed out Robinson’s attire, and the details are hazy now as I tell this story from memory. But the Kings forward looked like he was returning from the gym. Robinson was donning basketball gear, warm-ups probably, as he exited the vehicle dropping him off at the lobby of Palms Place.
I don’t know where Robinson was coming from that night. I didn’t jump out of my car to ask him. But I wouldn’t doubt that he was coming back from a practice court at the Thomas & Mack Center and not the XS Nightclub at Encore. He had talked to media earlier that day about staying after his games and watching as much hoops as he could.
“I just like basketball,” Robinson said after the Kings’ 113-91 loss to the Houston Rockets. ”I’m a junkie. I wanna see where other guys are going, some of these guys that have been here. Who looks comfortable, who doesn’t look comfortable. Try to pick up everything.”
Like the clip I above shows, spend a few minutes with Robinson and you’ll see how personal he takes the game. That attitude is something the Kings have sorely lacked in recent years. With the exception of maybe Isaiah Thomas, you could make the case that the Kings don’t have enough basketball junkies.
Robinson may struggle or flourish this season. We don’t know. But his apparent commitment to succeed, both in work on and off-the-court, is a contribution that might mean more than any single point or rebound he records this season.